chapter  2
24 Pages

Labour’s response to defeat (II): The Parliamentary Leadership in Opposition, June 1970–June 1971

On 19 June 1971, The Times marked the first anniversary of Labour’s defeat with a profile of Harold Wilson, ‘One year after’. Christopher Walker, having spent ‘seven days in the footsteps of the Leader of the Opposition’, found Wilson ‘facing what is probably the most tricky issue of party management to have confronted him since he took over from Gaitskell in 1963: the Common Market’, yet content to have ‘proved wrong’ those commentators who had predicted he would retire from the political fray and return to academia. One year after the loss of office he had recovered ‘the bounce and panache’ that had momentarily eluded him in the shock of defeat. Walker witnessed a rejuvenated former Prime Minister fulfilling his new role with ease, performing an array of duties including opening a toll bridge in Doncaster and watching a display of traditional dancing by the Britannia Coconutters at a Labour Gala in Rawtenstall.1